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Everyone Needs a Boodle

I'm constantly in trouble for blogging when I should be doing journalism, which is why I'm so grateful to the boodle, which keeps things rolling even when I'm working, or overwhelmed, or distracted, or unconscious, or aphasic, or temporarily incapacitated by Flyaway Hair Syndrome. Every person in the wordslinging trade should have a verbal support network. It takes a boodle to raise a blog.

We didn't realize that at first, and for the first few months of this blog's existence didn't allow comments. But a year ago today we intrepidly clicked on the little "Allow Comments" box and changed the course of history. I think we succeeded in our stated goal of giving the blog less of a 1995 feel and more of a 1998 feel.

I know some people don't dip into the boodle, but you're missing a lot. Here's a comment posted yesterday by LostinThought:

"...if evolution were a progressive march forward and not random, wouldn't we have developed some shoes to go with those legs/feet? And if so, would they change style and color to match our outfits, like a chameleon?"

This is the kind of thing we like: A comment that is in that special category of Almost Profound.

Then we have boodlers debating with other boodlers. To wit, note what Nelson wrote yesterday:

"I am always stunned when I read of some great astro-phycisist or astonomer talk of an anthropocentric universe. As if the universe was made just so Homonids could live in it, perceive it, study it."

Hours later, ScienceTim responded:

"Nelson, what you are talking about with great astrophysicists and astronomers is not an anthropocentric universe, but an application of the anthropic principle. The idea is to try to deduce whether our existence is a tight constraint on how a universe had to be, or a very loose constraint. Nobody knows if physical laws had to be the way that they are, with the strengths that they have, and so on. When they address 'our existence', they are not referring to hominids, but to structurally complex life-forms with sensory organs somewhat like ours and with information-processing power somewhat like ours, and with technologies to enable deeper investigations than what is provided by the senses alone. There is much discussion within the community as to whether the anthropic principle is even relevant to anything."

And check out this passage from an ode to homeobox (HOX) genes byLinda Loomis [update: Linda informs us that this is a quote from writer Jeff Schwartz]:
"When Darwin proposed his theory of evolution via natural selection, perhaps the most troubling thing for him was that he was going against church doctrine. According to the Bible, a Divine Creator placed all living creatures on this earth. As Darwin saw it, all life was connected by way of common origin. In retrospect, he was correct, but for the wrong reason. Life is less connected by a trail of transformation from one state to another than by the commonality of the homeobox genes. In short, genes do not evolve specifically for the creation of a particular organism, whether it be a human or a worm. There are no such things as genes for a worm or genes for a human being. Rather, particular combinations of the genes that are already present in all organisms lead to the development of organisms that have specific morphologies. Viewed in this light, it becomes clear that different organisms--new species--would not arise by a gradual accumulation of minor changes. Rather, a mutation affecting the activity of a homeobox gene can have a profound effect--such as turning Garstang's free-swimming larval tunicates into the first chordates [stiff rod of cartilage along its back]."

Which provoked a great response from a highly educated Lurker:

You have a good handle on HOX genes; the majority of paleontologists now consider them critical in evolution. Most multicellular organisms (excluding sponges and cnidarians, and "things of that sort") are basically a series of repeating segments, and each segments is tweaked to make different structures. And because HOX genes affect development at such an early stage, a change can have cascading effects--a small mutation results in a major change. They are probably also responsible for seemingly unlikely features like eyes--which turn out to not be as complicated as everyone thought. As Darwin pointed in the 6th ed of "Origin of Species" (I'm paraphrasing), if you have a clear membrane with light-sensitive cells behind it, you've basically got an eye. Everything else is just an add-on refinement.

I realize this is running on and on, and so I'm going to jump to the Extended Entry box, which I know for many of you sounds really exciting.

SonofCarl writes "Samuel Pepys' diary in the alternate universe where internet and blogging were available."

Monday, April 3, 1663

Lay long talking with my wife about ordering things in our family, and then rose and purused the writings on the Von Achenbach blog of one AlchemyTim, who writes with a great deal of style and witt. After a short dinner, I returned to Von Achenbach's blog and by night perfected my post addressed to AchemyTim's other identitie, BardTim, to my great content. So to other business till 11 at night, and so home to supper and to bed.

Tuesday, April 5, 1663

A very bad day. The King had occasion to summon me before his presence, and shewed me my internet history and time spent blogging. He further warned me to avoid blogging at the site of the coxcomb Prussian, Von Achenbach. That done, we all to bed, without prayers, it being washing day to-morrow.

Wednesday, April 5, 1663

Up and correspondended in my study with my colleague Von Achenfan, presently of Cathay. Thence calling upon my Lady Loomis, whom doth advise that she has a most interesting tale of intrigue involving Popery and the Non-Conformists.

(Lord's Day) April 9, 1663

Up and spent the morning, till the Barber came, in reading in my chamber part of Von Achenbach's earlier work, Abducted by the French (which I shall not never enough admire for sense and language), and being by and by trimmed, to Church, myself, wife, &c. Home to dinner, it raining, while that was prepared to my office to read over my vows with great affection and to very good purpose. So to dinner, and very well pleased with it. Thence home to my office alone till dark, reading some posts of a very old correspondent on Von Achenbach's blog named Curmudgeon, and so home to supper, and, after some pleasant talk, my wife, and I to bed.

[Fabulous stuff. Is there a out there somewhere?]

Finally, bc has written the full historic account of the rise of the boodle and its implications for the fate of civilization. You can read the whole thing on his blog. Here's an excerpt:

In the beginning there was the Achenblog.... [explication of blog]...

... The Boodle started slowly, with some early Kits only garnering a few comments, others gathering tens of comments. People began visiting the Achenblog regularly, and began commenting on not only the Kits, but commented on other comments (this is known as "Boodling"). While the inter-Boodler Boodling was
remarkably civil by Internet standards, it was also quite witty, well-informed and educational, and well-considered. There were Boodler doctors, scientists, writers and journalists, engineers, IT workers, teachers, bankers, and military personnel. And they weren't just located in and around Washington; Boodlers started popping up in the 50 states, and even in other countries. Occasionally, the Boodling was absolutely hilarious. Words were coined, poems and songs were composed, stories were told and fiction written for each other's amusement. At
times, it was raw with emotion and intellectual engagement; honest but passionate disagreements and argument, enlightenment, sadness, disappointment, outright insults, fear, and occasionally Boodlers were accused of being bad things that end with "-ist". People said rash things, fought, and then, remarkably, apologized and made up. They shared heartache over human suffering from natural disasters and war. They discussed science and religion rationally and knowledgeably. There were Rovestorms and umbrage, hearting, LOLs and keyboard pounding.

... Boodlers began spending hours in the Achenblog comments, waiting for feedback, for
emotional and intellectual connection and acknowledgement, for, perhaps, love? They began to ignore their jobs in the Government, in the Sciences, and in the Private Sector. eMails and phone calls went unanswered as folks caught up on past Boodling, and considered and wrote their next digital japes.

Untold work hours were lost, nay, wasted, and the intellectual capital of a most important part of American society along with it. The Machinery of the world began grinding to a halt, and cracks started to form in the foundation.

So, in these raw days as capitalist Western Civilization collapses, as Global Warming threatens to swamp our very existence, as the flames of war threaten to engulf the middle east and the entire world with it, we realize that there WAS a "Tipping Point" where the world's best minds and energies could have been harnessed and brought to bear on the world's problems. Those that could have made the difference chose to write Haiku about science fiction TV shows, make racy double entendres about politics, and write about history, when they could have been making it.


If a future human society finds this message, and are wondering about The End of the Golden Age of Man, remember this:

It's all Joel's fault....


April 7, 2055 AD

PS. Oh, and there's probably a very old toothless man in a basement in what used
to be Northwest Washington DC, who would very much like to get out and use the
outhouse. But he's got one last comment to post first.

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 7, 2006; 7:16 AM ET
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